New Zealand Walk: What makes the QC Track from great to awe­some

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

The Queen Char­lotte Track, while not an of­fi­cial Great Walk, is con­sid­ered pretty great by the thou­sands of walk­ers and moun­tain bik­ers that ex­pe­ri­ence all or part of it each year. But what makes it truly spe­cial, is the plethora of part­ner­ships that turn the track from great to awe­some...

The 70 kilo­me­tre track could al­most be con­sid­ered one of DOC’s orig­i­nal part­ner­ships, with its man­age­ment in­volv­ing the Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil and 10 pri­vate landown­ers. The landown­ers are rep­re­sented by the Queen Char­lotte Track Landown­ers Co-oper­a­tive who work closely with DOC and Marl­bor­ough District Coun­cil in main­tain­ing the track.

The landown­ers were the driv­ing force in cre­at­ing the track. In the early 1980s the Com­mis­sioner of Crown Lands pro­posed the idea of a track along the Kenepuru Ridge to landowner Rod Eatwell, and much of the work to form the walk­way was done by Rod and his neigh­bours.

By 1985 fund­ing be­came scarce and parts of the track were closed. Un­de­terred, the landown­ers con­tin­ued to keep the sec­tion be­tween Black Rock and Punga Cove free of gorse. The landown­ers con­tinue to­day to look at ways of en­hanc­ing vis­i­tor’s ex­pe­ri­ence, and have pro­vided seats, ta­bles and signs, all in the landowner co­op­er­a­tive’s unique style.

Along­side DOC and the Queen Char­lotte Track Landown­ers Co-oper­a­tive, sits the QCTInc. This is the mar­ket­ing arm for track op­er­a­tors who pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion, food, guid­ing com­pa­nies and wa­ter taxi’s, and they do a fan­tas­tic job at pro­mot­ing the track.

DOC is also cur­rently com­plet­ing a three-year part­ner­ship with Yealands Fam­ily Wines who have spon­sored $75,000 for in­ter­pre­ta­tion pan­els and web­site sto­ries for the track. They have also pro­vided over $30,000 a year from sales of its new ECO wine range to sup­port biose­cu­rity on preda­tor-free is­lands in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds.

The new in­ter­pre­ta­tion project is based on the idea of con­sul­ta­tion. De­signer Janet Bath­gate has come up with a com­plex jig­saw of sto­ries based around the land­scape fea­tures peo­ple could see from the nu­mer­ous look­outs along the track. The re­sult is stun­ning – over 50 sto­ries are care­fully in­ter­wo­ven around 3D maps.

Ap­prox­i­mately 12,000 vis­i­tors walk or bike the en­tire Queen Char­lotte Track, and many more visit smaller sec­tions as it trav­els along­side the Queen Char­lotte Sound. These track users prob­a­bly re­main largely obliv­i­ous to the in­tri­cate re­la­tion­ships that make the track work, but the scenery and as­sets along the track will pro­vide them with a unique ex­pe­ri­ence they will re­mem­ber long af­ter the blis­ters heal.

Above left: Yealands Fam­ily Wines spon­sored the in­ter­pre­ta­tion project. Above right: Landowner signs and seats pro­vide the track with its unique flavour. Mid­dle right: Landowner Rod Eatwell with one of his signs. Be­low left: Se­nior Ranger Margot...

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